Best Summer Festivals in Paris, from Live Music to Open-Air Cinema

A concert at Rock en Seine, a three-day rock festival just outside Paris in August. Image: Creative Commons 2.0
A concert at Rock en Seine, a three-day rock festival just outside Paris in August. Image: Creative Commons 2.0

The advent of summer in Paris is almost always a cheerful time, not least due to the large number of events– most outdoors and many totally free– that take over the city from June onward. From live music spilling out in the streets, to open-air movies on enormous lawns, intimate jazz concerts and street-art events, these are some of the best summer festivals in Paris. Make sure to mark them in your calendars before a mid-year trip.

1. La Fête de la Musique (June 21st)

Falling right in time for the first day of summer, or solstice, on June 21st, the Fête de la Musique (Music Festival or “Make Music Day”) is a free annual event that’s approaching its 40th year. Hundreds of free performances fill the streets of Paris (and many other French cities) with music, with shows ranging from small jazz trios set up on street corners to massive concerts performed from stages set up on major city squares.

Major spots where concerts and shows are held most years include Place de la République, Place Denfert-Rochereau, Place de la Bastille the Jardin des Tuileries/Louvre area, Petit Palais, and the Jardin du Luxembourg, in addition to hundreds of others.

All genres are represented, from DJs spinning electro or funk, to rock, hip-hop, indie and classical shows.

Free, fun, and a perfect way to spend the longest day of the year, the Fête de la Musique is a staple in the June calendar. See this page for information on this year’s events, including security and safety-related guidance.

2. Open-Air Cinema at the Parc de la Villette

Open-air cinema at La Villette: one of the most popular summer festivals in Paris
Open-air cinema at La Villette: free and relaxing. Image: Courtesy of La Villette

Cinephiles, rejoice: One of the best parts of summer in the city of light are the long evenings sprawled out on the grass at the quirky Parc de la Villette, enjoying free movies on a large outdoor screen.

The Cinéma en Plein Air (Open-Air Cinema) event generally runs for several weeks in July and August, and includes an eclectic selection of movies likely to please everyone, from blockbusters to arthouse films that recently snagged prizes at Cannes, to cult classics and animated films. Every year, there’s a different theme.

While it’s a bit of a trek to get up to the La Villette in far northeastern Paris, it’s well worth it for an evening of free cinema, especially when it’s warm and balmy. Make sure to pack a picnic to enjoy it to the fullest, and bring a blanket (unless you’re willing to fork out a few Euros to rent transats (deckchairs).

See more on this year’s program for Open-Air Cinema at la Villette here, and for practical information on getting there and navigating the park, read our full guide here.

3. Paris Gay Pride (Marche des Fiertés)

The Marche des Fiertés (Gay Pride) event is one of the beloved summer festivals in Paris.

Another key day in the late June line-up in Paris is the Marche des Fiertés (Pride March), formerly known as Paris Gay Pride. Generally held in the third or fourth week of June, the event sees LGBTQIA+ Parisians, visitors, and their allies take to the streets in the thousands for an event that’s both full of joy and political meaning.

Everyone is welcome to come celebrate and support the event.While these days, most people associate Pride events most with enormous floats, dance parties, and flamboyant costumes among some of the participants, it’s historically an event that has been tremendously important for the advancement of LGBTQIA+ rights.

Most years, the march and parade kicks off at around 2pm and wends around Paris for a couple of hours before ending in a large rally and dance party (typically at Place de la République, with its statue of Marianne promising fraternity, equality and liberty for all). In a typical year, you can also enjoy a nightcap through after-event dance parties in Parisian bars, especially in the Marais district.

The exact route changes year-by-year, so make sure to check details for this year’s event. You can see more on the upcoming Pride event in Paris in our full guide.

4. Jazz at the Parc Floral, Bois de Vincennes

Jazz concerts at the Parc Floral, Bois de Vincennes

If jazz is your preferred genre or you’re a casual fan, the annual open-air jazz festival at the Parc Floral is an excellent way to spend an afternoon in one of the most beautiful parks in Paris. Generally held from late June through early September, the festival sees performers from around the world take to the stage at the Parc Floral, a botanical garden within the lush Bois de Vincennes at Paris’ eastern border.

{Related: 4 Paris Jazz Festivals to Mark in Your Calendars Now}

While this event isn’t free, ticket prices are reasonable, and setting up near the stage on a picnic blanket to partake of an al-fresco meal as you soak in the jazz riffs is one idyllic way to spend an afternoon.

See more on this year’s program here (in French, but you can use Google Translate in your browser if needed).

5. Paris Plages (Pop-Up Beaches on the Seine & Waterways)

Paris Plages, an ephemeral beach that takes over the Seine each July and August. Image credit: Public domain

Launched in 2002 but now seen as an essential moment in the Parisian summer, Paris Plages is a pop-up beach operation that takes over stretches of the Seine River (in the city center) and the Bassin de la Villette, a waterway that stretches through part of the northeastern 19th arrondissement.

Typically held for roughly six weeks between mid-July and late August or early September, the ephemeral beach event sees sandy beaches lined with chaises-longues, parasols, beach bars and play areas for kids occupy parts of the Seine riverbanks on the Right Bank, generally the stretch from the Hotel de Ville/City Hall area to the Louvre/Tuileries area (and sometimes a bit beyond).

Meanwhile, a second site on the Villette canal (around Metro Stalingrad and Jaures) is ideal for boating, swimming and cinema lovers, with swimming holes, boat rentals, two (permanent) movie theatres, and more sandy beach lounge areas and bars installed along the quays.

Canal de l'Ourq during Paris Plages beach event
Paris Plages at Bassin de la Villette, 2018. Image: Courtney Traub/All rights reserved

For more on this year’s Paris Plages events, including info on attractions, beach bars, swilling holes, boating and more, see this page.

6. Rock en Seine

Image by Christophe Crenel/Rock en Seine
Image by Christophe Crenel/Rock en Seine

For rock and indie fans in particular, this epic three-day festival staged on the sprawling lawns of the Domaine de Saint-Cloud just west of Paris is an essential mid-year ritual. Rock en Seine generally features several headlining artists every year, alongside shows from several up-and-coming bands and solo artists with a more cult following.

In recent years, the program has become more eclectic, to include performances from artists in genres ranging from electronica to hip-hop alongside rock and indie shows.

You can go for a day or for the whole three, and if you reserve early enough you can even set up a tent on the lawns outside the stage, making for the ultimate summer festival experience.

For this year’s full line-up at Rock en Seine and to buy tickets/reserve campsites online, see the official website.

7. Villette Sonique (Outdoor Music Festival)

Image by La Villette
Villette Sonique/Image by La Villette

Another fantastic event not to miss at the Parc de la Villette, this annual music festival is generally held in early June (sometimes in late May). A giant stage overlooks the lawns of the ultra-contemporary park, with free performances from gaggles of talented artists.

Hip-hop, electro, reggae, rock, post-punk and jazz are among the genres that intermingle on the eclectic program.

For info on this year’s festival and location, see this page.

8. Bastille Day Celebrations & Fireman’s Balls

Fireworks in Paris on Bastille Day, 2010. Image credit: Joshua Veitch-Michaelis/Creative Commons
Fireworks in Paris on Bastille Day, 2010. Image credit: Joshua Veitch-Michaelis/Creative Commons

Last but certainly not least, no Parisian summer would feel complete without the annual celebrations for Bastille Day on July 14th— France’s national holiday.

Elaborate fireworks shows are a major attraction after nightfall, but in the run-up to the show in the sky, Paris also stages an elaborate military parade (generally on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées), and there are also fun, campy balls (dance parties) staged by firemen at select casernes (fire stations) around the city. Some events take place several days leading up to July 14th, so don’t miss out.

{Read related: Bastille Day Once Celebrated Constitutional Monarchy, & Other Strange Facts}

For more information on this year’s events on and around July 14th, see this page at the tourist office.

More on Events & Festivals in Paris, Year-Round

Paris Beer Week is a recently launched festival held in May and dedicated to all things beer. Credit: Paris Beer Week/Official Facebook page

For more on events in the capital in the coming months, see our guide on when to visit, or visit this page at the Tourist Office website.

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